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I Am Sick of Our Doula Getting in Between Me and My Wife. Should I Fire Her?

An expecting dad wasn't expecting the doula to be such a thorn in his side. The Goodfather advises.

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Goodfather, 

My wife is 35 weeks pregnant with our second kid and we’re slowly approaching our due date. We hired a doula a little over a month ago, but I’ve been having some serious problems with her.

Our first kid was delivered in a hospital by a doctor, we didn’t have a midwife or anything and we both kind of found the experience too clinical and cold. So this time around my wife wanted to try a natural birth with a midwife and she convinced me that a doula would help because they support both of us in the delivery room. I like our midwife just fine, and I have nothing against our doula personally, it’s just that she doesn’t seem to care about my opinion, perspective or feelings.

As we get closer to the due date, my wife is getting nervous about going the natural path and so she’s been talking about getting epidurals and stuff. But the doula is constantly pushing back and always trashing the hospital births and medication. I tried to make it clear that we will be doing whatever my wife wants and that our first kid was delivered just fine, but the doula is just really patronizing and treats me like I’m just an uninformed idiot. It pisses me off so much because I’m doing all the reading and research and looking at what the experts say.  

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What I really want is to fire the doula and just go it with the midwife. I feel pretty confident in my ability to support my wife and I feel like the doula is just adding more stress that’s probably not healthy for my wife. Do you think it would be better to fire the doula and how can I convince my wife it’s for the best?

Thanks,

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Doula-Dueling in Duluth

 

Before we go deep on firing your doula (or not), I want to be clear that studies have shown doulas to be beneficial to birth outcomes. The presence of a doula is associated with fewer medical interventions like pain medication or c-sections and women with doula supported deliveries report less pain and shorter labor times in general. That’s all pretty great. But there is some question as to whether or not there is some special magic in the nurturing, educational advocacy of a doula, or if the better outcomes are simply related to the continuous support of the woman in labor — which could theoretically be provided by any number of people. 

So, right upfront, I would urge a little bit of caution in moving to fire your doula. Despite your confidence, you may not want to be the person to provide continuous labor support. After all, who is going to support you? And with 5-weeks to your due date, it might be hard to bring another doula on board. 

That said, you have a valid argument. The role of a doula is to be a resource for both you and your wife. Of course, considering your wife is the one who will be experiencing the pain and physical trauma of labor, she deserves greater consideration. That does not mean, however, that you deserve zero consideration. A good doula, who is true to the craft, would be hearing you out and taking pains to answer all concerns with empathy and understanding. It’s fine that she would endeavor to remind your wife she wanted a more natural birth, but pushing an agenda in spite of fears is pretty bad form. 

As with any job, the success of the employee or contractor is going to be based, at least in part, on fit. What you seem to be describing is a bad fit. And if your doula is truly a bad fit, then you should have no qualms in firing her. The (very pregnant) wrinkle in that simple statement is your wife. 

It’s entirely possible that your doula is stressing your wife out, but you weren’t really presenting me with a statement of fact. You seemed to be assuming that was the case. What I think you need is reassurance. It’s high time for a frank conversation with your wife about what you perceive as a bad fit with your doula. In the best possible scenario, your wife agrees and you decide to move on with you taking on a doula-type role and leaning on your midwife on delivery day. That might be just fine. 

Another scenario is that your wife has formed a bond with the doula, in which case, it might freak her out more to lose the support. If the thought of firing the doula makes her feel isolated or even more frightened, then you need to back off because, in the end, it’s not really about you. That can be aggravating, but it’s true. The person who needs the most deference and support right now is the mother of your children. She has got to come first. 

But that doesn’t mean you’re screwed. I think that you can work on the fit. Maybe invite your doula out to have coffee and a conversation and just be very upfront about your concerns. Own those concerns and present them in a non-confrontational way. Use good-old-fashioned I language, like: “Hey, I feel sidelined when you don’t listen to my thoughts about pain medication.” Keep it easy and ask if you can find solutions and compromise. The fact is that your doula is there to support both of you. Your attitude in the delivery room is crucial to your wife’s experience and your doula should be ready and willing to make sure that you feel comfortable with the process too. Ask questions. 

If that doesn’t solve the issue, then I’m not sure there’s much more you can do. If your partner is determined to keep the doula you both have hired despite your misgivings, she gets the final say. After all, right now she basically has two votes. 

Best of luck to you both!